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Black Country Museum asks residents to come forward with Dudley's Civic Restaurant memories

By Dayna Farrington | Dudley | Attractions | Published:

The Black Country Museum is appealing to residents for their memories of Dudley's Civic Restaurant for their ambitious new development project Forging Ahead.

Dudley's Civic Restaurant viewed from Fisher Street. Photo: Alan Price

Volunteers at the museum are looking for memories from the 1940s to the 1950s of the Civic Restaurant which once stood on the corner of Fisher Street and Birmingham Street in Dudley from 1948 until the 1980s.

The Black Country Museum plans to recreate the restaurant as part of their new 1940s to 1960s town which will focus on the Black Country's history after the Second World War. Work on the Forging Ahead project will start in the autumn and is expected to finish in 2022.

The recreated restaurant will offer visitors to the museum a chance to taste post-war life including National Bread and steamed jam puddings, as well as hearty British dinners highlighting the shortages and challenges of eating well during post-war Britain.

Purpose built in 1948, the Civic Restaurant was part of a government-led initiative to change popular wartime Britain restaurants into civic restaurants. These aimed to provide affordable and nutritious food without diners needing to use their personal rations and was particularly important in the Black Country as many companies were too small to run canteens for their workers.

Prior to this, most British Restaurants had been located in makeshift venues like church halls, town halls and school buildings. Dudley’s were in church halls at St John’s Kate’s Hill, King Street Methodist, and St Christopher’s, on the Wren’s Nest estate.

But a handful of councils looked at Civic Restaurants as an opportunity to build brand new, modern and efficient restaurants – Dudley was one of this pioneering group.

The interior of Dudley's Civic Restaurant. Photo: Dudley Archives

A spokesman for the museum said: "The Civic Restaurant, built by the bus station to a modern pre-cast concrete design, was designed for mass dining, serving midday dinners, coffees, teas and evening meals for to up to 200 people at a time.

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"The restaurant featured an open plan kitchen, a mural designed by local students from Dudley Technical College, coffee room and a terrace. In later years it was also hired out for private functions, dances and wedding receptions.

"Dudley’s Central Civic Restaurant was a great success to begin with, but as more prosperous times came to the Black Country, diners began to look elsewhere for less basic cuisine, and the restaurant began to struggle. Despite a revamp in 1954 as the Ednam Restaurant, with new menus, jukeboxes, and carpets, by 1956 it had become unprofitable, and closed later that year.

"The building was then used for several different council purposes following its closure, most notable as the home of the Black Country Museum Development Office from 1975 to 1984. The building was eventually demolished to make way for Dudley’s new bus station with many fixtures and fittings sold at public auction."

Volunteers at the museum are now asking any residents with memories of dining or attending a function at the restaurant, anyone who worked there or can remember any details about the Civic Restaurant to get in touch.

You can email collections@bclm.com or by calling 0121 557 9643.

For more information about BCLM: Forging Ahead, visit www.bclm.com/forgingahead.

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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